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Andrés Segovia: Guitar recital
Vincenzo GALILEI (c.1530-1591): Six Pieces* [7’11"]
Robert de VISÉE (c.1650-c.1725): Six Pieces from the Suites No. 9 in D minor; and No. 12 in E minor * [10’29"]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Fugue in A minor (orig. G minor), BWV1000* [4’49"]; Gavotte en Rondeau from Suite in E major, BWV1006a * [3’08"]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828): Menuetto from Piano Sonata in G major, D894* [6’03"]
Alexander TANSMAN (1897-1986): Cavatina [14’56"]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959): Five Preludes: No 3 in A minor [5’06"]; No. 1 in E minor [4’02"]
Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968): Tonadilla on the Name of Andrés Segovia, Op 170/5 [5’13"]; Tarantella, Op. 87/1 [4’16"]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916); Danzas Españolas, Op. 37: No. 10 Melancolica (Danza triste) in G major [4’36"]
*Denotes arrangement by Andrés Segovia
Andrés Segovia (guitar)
Recorded in the Freemason’s Hall, Edinburgh, 28 August 1955
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4108-2 [70’57]

It is a commonplace to describe Andrés Segovia (1893-1987) as the father of the modern guitar as a concert instrument. The composer and critic John Duarte expresses it rather well in his liner note: "Perhaps the most eloquent testimonial to his work is the observation that without Segovia no-one connected with the classic guitar would be "sitting" where he or she is now." This recording of an Edinburgh Festival recital shows him at the height of his considerable powers.

The chosen programme illustrates nicely two crucial contributions which Segovia made to the guitar repertoire of today. The first part is given over to transcriptions, by Segovia himself, of music, mainly from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which, though not originally written for the guitar were correctly identified by him as being eminently suitable for that instrument. The second part of the programme includes several more modern works inspired by Segovia’s artistry (and in the case of the pieces by Tansman, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Villa-Lobos commissioned by him.)

The music by Galilei (the father of Galileo Galilei), de Visée and Bach was all written for the lute but works extremely well on the modern guitar. The great artist applies delicacy and finesse to the short pieces by Galilei and though the pieces by de Visée are also fairly slight he plays them with affection. If you need an example of what made Segovia a great artist sample the beautiful, haunting tone which he employs for de Visée’s 'Sarabande' (track 10). In the Bach pieces the marvellous logic of the German master’s music is very well served by the clarity of Segovia’s playing.

Schubert did not write any significant music for the guitar but, as John Duarte observes, he did play the instrument and may well have had it in mind for some of his lieder accompaniments. (Incidentally, Peter Schreier has made a marvellous recording of Die Schöne Müllerin, which works really well in this format.) Thus a transcription of a movement from a piano sonata is not entirely out of court. In Segovia’s hands the result is wholly convincing. The way he eases into the trio (track 15, 2’45") and then plays the trio itself with melting rubato is the work of a master.

Turning to the more recent pieces. The Tansman is an agreeable little suite, originally consisting of four movements. The final ‘Danza pomposa’ was added later to provide a more convincing conclusion; I can see why. The suite exploits the guitar’s range and Segovia’s technique very well. Of particular note is the languid ‘Sarabande’ (track 17).

For the remainder of the programme we are in the Hispanic world. The two Villa-Lobos preludes complement each other most effectively. Segovia first plays the haunting, reflective third prelude (track 21) and does it exquisitely. The following first prelude is much more forthright (could these be called feminine and masculine compositions?). The pair constitute, for me, the highlight of the recital. The Castelnuovo-Tedesco ‘Tarantella’ is infectious with a delightfully puckish pay-off. Listeners should be warned that on my copy at least there was some surface swishing at the start of this item (track 24). I wonder if the Granados piece was an encore on the night? It makes a delightful envoi though it doesn’t sound very melancholy in this fluent and engaging performance.

Apart from the one slight blemish mentioned above the recording wears its years lightly. The sound of the master’s guitar is well caught. There is some noise from bronchial members of the audience though this is not too much of a distraction. More of an irritant, I fear, is the audience’s tendency to break into applause before the last note of a particular item has died away. However, this is a small price to pay for hearing this great artist in sovereign form.

This CD will be self-recommending to all aficionados of guitar music. However, it should be of interest to general collectors as well. It is a fine addition to the BBC Legends catalogue.

John Quinn

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